Copy Right

Still within the realm of a desk editor’s role we have copyright. Although there is usually a rights team within the publishing house, the desk editor still needs to know a little about copyright to help the author with their work. The basic rule is that if someone makes something it belongs to them. The author has the right to be identified as the writer and their name holds copyright for 70 years after their death. This means to use someone’s work you probably need to pay someone a lot of money. As the material belongs to the author it means you cannot change the content when using it in future work.

Within copyright there is a fair dealing clause. This tells you roughly how much you can quote before permission is needed. This means that for academic work, quotes can be used to back up points. A rough guide is that 400 words from one full book is around the limit for free quotes before permission is needed. Obviously, this can change dependant on how long the work is. 2 lines from a 10 line poem constitutes a large proportion of that piece of work meaning permission would be needed. If the quote is used at the beginning of the book and has no bearing on the topic of that book then permission is needed regardless of how much is quoted.

Pictures work in much the same way. Again copyright belongs to the owner until 70 years after their death. If there are people photographed in the pictures used then permission from these people is also needed before it can used in the book.  With pictures (and sometimes written) copyright can be assigned to a publisher but often only for a specified amount of time or for a specified type of book. If something is found on the internet, it generally cannot be used as you never know who the true owner is. If you are trying to get permission you have to tell the author/publishing house where you are publishing (ie country) and what you are publishing (ie what type of book – academic/fiction). Unless the author has given copyright, the publisher never automatically owns copyright.

Within copyright, liable is included. Anything said disparagingly should be used with caution by author and publisher as you could be liable meaning the person who the remarks are about can sue for defamation.

That is the end of the editing section of this module. After Christmas we shall be looking at the production side of publishing with the cover designer for JK Rowling! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

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